500,000 workers in Los Angeles just got a 66% pay raise

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Los Angeles city council voted today to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 by 2020.


According to NPR approximately 800,000 people in Los Angeles live below the federal poverty line, and more than 500,000 workers earn the minimum wage.

The move represents a 66 percent raise for the latter group, who make $9 an hour in California,

"I started this campaign to raise the minimum wage to create broader economic prosperity in our city and because the minimum wage should not be a poverty wage in Los Angeles," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The measure was debated for almost a year, and shows the clout organized labor now enjoys in city politics, the Los Angeles Times said. An earlier move from Garcetti to pass a less sweeping bill was defeated.

And it represents the biggest victory yet for the Fight For $15, a union-backed movement that hopes to raise worker and get them to organize. While cities like Seattle and San Francisco have increased minimum wages to $15 minimum wage, no city as large as Los Angeles has yet taken this step.

"People used to think we had no chance, but we are steadily winning the fight by demanding $15 an hour to lift our families out of poverty," said Albina Ardon, a McDonald’s employee from Los Angeles, in a statement provided by campaign organizers.


Movement organizers note low wages in the fast-food industry were costing the state of California an estimated $717 million every year in public assistance programs.

But opponents of today's vote said it would hurt small business owners. "There is simply not enough room, enough margin in these businesses to absorb a 50-plus percent increase in labor costs over a short period of time," a Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Representative told the L.A. Times.


Officials in other cities are also working to pass a $15 minimum wage. A proposal continues to be floated in Chicago, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to press for one, though he has faced opposition from members of his own party, including Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Today's vote could provide a burst of momentum for both cities.

"There’s a sense spreading that this is the new norm, especially in areas that have high costs of housing,” Michael Reich, a University of California-Berkeley economist who studied the proposed increase, told the New York Times.


Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.